Hollywood must end its fixation with beauty, says top director
Hollywood may be making inroads into creating bigger and better roles for women and black and minority ethnic actors – but there is one taboo that the film world stubbornly fails to address, according to one of its most prominent female directors.
“Looks are more a taboo than gender and race,” said Susanne Bier, who gripped audiences with thriller The Night Manager, and is among the few female directors to have received an Oscar, a Golden Globe and an Emmy.
She struggled to convince studio heads when she wanted to cast actors who differed from Hollywood’s idealised image of beauty, she said. “If I suggest actors or actresses with unusual looks, I have a much harder time getting them through than anyone else.”
She added: “It’s difficult to talk about because you don’t get a straight answer. You’re not going to get a studio head that says, ‘We don’t think this person is beautiful enough.’ You get all sorts of strange answers. But that is the reason. That is the one taboo which is very hard to overcome.”
She accepts that most audience members enjoy beauty. “I’m embracing that,” she said. “But I do think that the world consists of many elements – and I don’t necessarily think that beauty is the only interesting thing.”
Bier, who is Danish, won the Oscar for best foreign language film for In a
Better World, about a doctor grappling with the horrors of a refugee camp and his own disintegrating family.
Her latest film, a Netflix production released in cinemas on 21 December, is Bird Box, a dystopian thriller starring Sandra Bullock with a controversial depiction of motherhood.
Sandra Bullock, left, and Susanne Bier at the European premiere of Bird Box.